New Cable Subs Gravitating To Broadband-Only Service

Marchex Study Highlights Cord-Cutting Trend, Desire For Personalized Bundles

Highlighting the small but growing cord-cutting trend, the number of new cable subscribers requesting only Internet service is outpacing the number that are asking only for video service, a new study from mobile ad tech firm Marchex found.

The study, based on anonymous data from 500 randomly selected phone calls (out of a total of 4,000) placed by U.S. consumers to “leading” cable operators in 2014, found that 26% of those new customers asked for Internet service only. By comparison, 22% of callers in the same study asked for TV only. 

The study also found that nearly 40% of consumers asked providers about paying for specific channels, and that nearly half (47%) wanted premium programming, with HBO identified as the top requested premium channel.

With respect to sports, ESPN was by far the top network in the category requested. “ESPN remains a big draw for consumers to actually keep their subscriptions,” the report noted.

In addition to shedding more light on cord-cutting, the findings also show that consumers are steering clear of long-term contracts and are seeking content a la carte, or are at least are searching for more personalized and customized bundles, Chen Zhao, director of analytics for the Marchex Institute, the data and insights unit of Marchex, said.

From a content perspective, the numbers indicate that MSOs should create programming packages for consumers’ evolving tastes because they now have the power to get what they want from other sources as OTT services grow in popularity.

“We believe that [cable operators] should embrace the digital shift and use this as an opportunity, rather than taken over by destruction” of the industry’s historic business models, she said.

The study, Marchex's first to focus on these specific data points, culled data from the firm's Call Analytics technology, a big data platform that’s on pace to anonymously monitor 1.1 million consumer calls to cable operators this year. It uses a voice processing technology to sift through that data at scale and detect key words or channels that were spoken and other information that is embedded in the audio.

Marchex’s partners, which include top cable operators and their ad agencies, use that data to optimize their marketing messages and gain insight on which channels lead to increased “conversions” (i.e. sales as well as customer saves).